Review Summary: A slightly darker version of A Tribe Called Quest with fantastic atmospheric production and incredible rapping. An underrated classic.
Despite huge critical acclaim, Organized Konfusion’s second album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda
, was unfortunately buried under a myriad of other great hip-hop albums released that year, especially Nas
’ classic Illmatic
is slightly darker and less light-hearted than Organized Konfusion’s 1991 self-titled debut, removing the more poppy songs with a more down-tempo sound. That’s not to say that this is completely bleak and depressing; there is plenty of variety here with plenty of fantastic upbeat bass lines and jazzy samples, but the production and a lot of snare gives it a very bass-heavy dark sound. The mixture works incredibly well, combining a grimy atmosphere similar to that found on Illmatic
with a jazzy sound found in groups like A Tribe Called Quest
and De La Soul
. As a result, Stress
sounds like A Tribe Called Quest
’s darker, slightly paranoid cousin.
Much like Illmatic
relies on this atmosphere to stay gripping, and atmosphere is one thing it contains plenty of. At times it sounds incredibly tense, like on ’Stray Bullet’, which details gang violence in terrifying detail, complete with gunshots, and at times like on ‘3-2-1’ in stark contrast sounds almost completely calm and relaxing. The album never sounds completely ‘happy’ though, you won’t hear anything as upbeat and cheerful as ‘Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken"’ from the debut here. The lack of obviously catchy hooks helps in bands favour however, stopping the songs from getting stale after a few listens.
Despite the wide variety of themes and moods explored in Stress
it never sounds at all disjointed though. The consistently brilliant production holds it all together, giving the whole album a familiar unique sound. Most of the production is done by the two band members, Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po, with a few songs from Buckwild and Roickwilder. For hip-hop it is surprisingly complex, with sometimes densely layered samples and odd time-signature changes.
Of course, good hip-hop is nothing without quality rapping to back up the music and Stress
contains some of the very best. Pharoahe Monch in particular is incredible, rapping at a ridiculously fast pace with complex rhymes and a huge variety of styles but always with complete precision and with every single word totally clear. It truly is some of the most impressive rapping ever recorded. Prince Po is fantastic too, but seems shadowed by Monch. His rapping adds to Monch’s perfectly though, and is definitely a very underrated rapper. Apart from very minimal contributions from O.C. and A Tribe Called Quest
’s Q-Tip in ‘Let’s Organize’, these two do all the rapping on the album.
The lyrics are equally impressive, with intricate multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and complex metaphors. Many of the songs explore typical hip-hop themes, detailing gang violence, but never glorifying it at all. The album deals with ambitious concepts but pulls them all off fantastically, thanks to the excellent rapping.
is one of the most underrated hip-hop albums ever released; almost completely flawless except for a slightly dated production and Pharoahe Monche shadowing Prince Po’s performance so much. These are all very minor complaints though, and this should definitely be one of the first albums anyone interested in hip-hop should get.